The end of August was the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the greatest natural disaster in American history. The region is slowly recovering, but the debate about who is to blame for the lack of preparation and the slow response continues.
Katrina struck with ferocity across 90,000 square miles of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Over 800,000 people were forced from their homes and up to 1,800 people died. Despite the warnings that such a disaster could strike the region, officials at the local, state and federal level were woefully unprepared for the disaster.
The days following the hurricane highlighted this state of unpreparedness as the poor who were left behind suffered from hunger, dehydration and lack of shelter. Who can forget the scenes of people floating through the squalid water seeking dry land or those on rooftops signaling desperately for rescue? I well remember the poignant picture of a mother walking out of the waters covering New Orleans with a small baby in her arms seeking help for the infant. That moment on TV seemed to epitomize the plight of the whole city caught in a perfect storm of human incompetence, lack of preparation and natural disaster.
What has been learned since then? Are other cities and regions better prepared for the next “big one,” whatever it may be? What does the Katrina disaster teach us about the art of preparation for coming troubles—especially those we have ample warning are on the horizon? It is this last question that is most important for those of us who watch the growing threats on the international skyline.
An article in Time magazine, “Why We Don’t Prepare,” examined the human response to catastrophe. It said the real challenge is not predicting natural catastrophes—that can be done. The harder challenge is to prepare for them. “We know exactly—exactly where the major disasters will occur,” said one expert. “But individuals underperceive the risk.”
“There are four stages of denial,” says Eric Holdeman, director of emergency management for Washington’s King County, which includes Seattle and faces a significant earthquake threat. “One is, it won’t happen. Two is, if it does happen, it won’t happen to me. Three: if it does happen to me, it won’t be that bad. And four: if it happens to me and it’s bad, there’s nothing I can do to stop it anyway” ( Time, Aug. 28, 2006).
We can practice all the denial we want, but the fact is, these are dangerous times. We can take steps to prepare for calamity, whether in our neighborhood or the world at large.
Christ said, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is…Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?” (Luke 12:54-56 Luke 12:54-56 54 And he said also to the people, When you see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway you say, There comes a shower; and so it is.
55 And when you see the south wind blow, you say, There will be heat; and it comes to pass.
56 You hypocrites, you can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that you do not discern this time?
American King James Version×). Christ was challenging His audience to see the reality of the Kingdom of God before them, in His person. The context points to personal accountability based on repentance. None of us is exempt from unexpected calamities. We had better understand our times and live according to the teachings of the Kingdom while we have opportunity. That is the most important preparation.
Christ warned, “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36 Luke 21:34-36 34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come on you unawares.
35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
36 Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version×).
I hope we have all taken steps to implement a plan for unexpected natural disasters that can strike us wherever we live.
Even more important, God’s Word, the Bible, tells us a great deal about what is to happen to our world in the future. We have ample warning and time to decide how to prepare for the times ahead. Now is the time to act on the knowledge we have. Keep watching. WNP